Patton gives his sport one strong arm

March 02, 1994|By Phil Jackman

Dave Patton doesn't remember his shortest arm wrestling match. "It would be hard to measure," says the three-time national champion from Centreville, Va. "How quickly can an arm move from the upright position to flat on a table, half a second?"

Now you want to talk about long matches, Patton has a story. "It was 11 minutes," he says, still sounding a bit fatigued in the recall. "It was the final of the Yukon Jack tourney in Chicago a couple of years ago.

"The place was packed. The crowd started out screaming, but then we settled down and the excitement died down. Then every time one of us pushed to end it, the noise would go up again. Back and forth, back and forth. You know, your hand and arm go numb after four or five minutes."

Patton won and with subsequent titles he has become a mini-legend in the Yukon Jack Arm Wrestling Championships, which include regional meets in 25 cities leading to the big showdown in San Francisco in late August.

Bohager's at 515 S. Eden St. is hosting the three-night competition that wraps up tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. with winners in one women's and three men's divisions qualifying for the finals. Patton has some friends he would like to see qualify from here, so he'll attempt to qualify in New York later on.

As a spokesman for the tournament, whose entry fee of $5 goes to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Patton understands that most people's perception of arm wrestling is that it's contested in bars by guys with tattoos and leather jackets, or burly types at truckers' rest stops.

"It's nothing like that now," says the 33-year-old electronics engineer. "Kids are getting interested in the sport at a young age and, besides looking for something to do, they seem to be looking for something that will give them a sense of self-esteem. Anyone can enter, that's the beauty of it and the people in the sport are terrific.

"There are 46 countries involved in arm wrestling now and, in this area alone, there are probably a hundred tournaments during the course of a year. Multiply that by eight regions and you see there's quite a bit of action out there.

"It's biggest in the East and West and, when there's prize money involved, you'll get entrants from as many as 15 states. Some tournaments will draw as many as 600 competitors."

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